The Dispossessed

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at
Wed Nov 1 14:52:14 MST 1995

Let's keep this discussion going - this novel is a crucial and rich text

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

On Wed, 1 Nov 1995, Robert McDonell wrote:

> Not that it can add much to this conversation, but I thought it might be
> worth taking into account LeGuin's original subtitle (The Dispossessed: An
> Ambiguous Utopia (as I recall))

	You're right.  And Chip Delany responded to it twice, once in a
carefully critical essay, and once again in the subtitle for his novel

 and the fictive fact that LeGuin (unless
> memory is tricking me) has the hainish stick with Shevek because they see
> in his theories a possibility or possibilities they had not
> encountered/considered before.

	Now that you mention it, the emphasis on communication strikes me
as a potential nod to Habermas.  Do you think this is true?

> For me, a major point Leguin is making is that utopia cannot be achieved in
> isolation or by breaking away--from others, from history.  Odo theories on
> Urras, x years in the past, and her anarchic ideas are played out in wholly
> different context of scarcity on Anarres: theory bumps into reality and
> falls short.  Yet utopia must be sought, worked toward and Shevek crosses
> the seams of Anarres where accomodation (and a
> certain--inevitable?--corruption) has had to occur, both because of
> scarcity (DivLab, etc.) or the impossibility of becoming totally sparate
> from Urras(spaceport, university, etc.).

	So the novel is anti-secessionist?  This makes sense in the Marx
context, as has been pointed out on this list repeatedly.  Good point to
bring up.  Yet schisms seem to have a generative and dialectical value.
If we take one reading of LeGuin's Taoism, then, perhaps she's arguing
for a sort of spiral-cycle of society, of development and criticism?  Now
I have to go back to ALWAYS COMING HOME to see if it happens there...

  In this totalistic image,
> theoretically represented by the problems space & time represent to us
> creatures (wasn't the "ansible"--instantaneous communication device--one
> partial but metaphorically necessary solution?), LeGuin is exploring our as
> yet insurmountable predicament as historical beings/agents: how do we
> dismantle/eradicate the power (over) and oppression (of) that divides us
> and perpetuates that division.  I find the Ambiguity of the subtitle in
> both the real and the metaphysical implications LeGuin's narrative
> explores, but, like LeGuin, I think it is better(if you are in a
> position--a space-time?--to do so) to keep trying than to give in and go
> along.

	This again sounds like Habermas.  Hm.

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